What I find interesting about UNESCO sites is that they are not always obviously beautiful or outstanding, and it takes a while to appreciate why a certain site is recognized. While Warsaw’s Old Town is officially the UNESCO Heritage site, very little from the original Old Town has remained. In fact, the Old Town had quite a tragic fate, as it was methodically destroyed by the retreating Germans in 1944 as a punishment for the failed Warsaw Uprising. The tour guide showed us the before and after war aerial pictures of the Warsaw’s Old Town, and the latter one left little to the imagination, as all that could be seen were foundations of barely extant buildings and huge piles of rubble. About 85% of the city was destroyed! Following the war, the Warsaw community got together, and reconstructed the Old Town brick by brick, attempting to piece together the remains and filling in the architectural gaps where necessary.
The reconstructed Old Town appeared incredibly cheery with brightly-coloured buildings huddled together, while the Soviet-era Palace of Culture and Science so appropriately, so ominously, so symbolically clashed and towered over the rest of the city.